Boundless Winds of Empire: Rhetoric and Ritual in Early Chosŏn Diplomacy with Ming China

Wang, Sixiang. 2023. Boundless Winds of Empire: Rhetoric and Ritual in Early Chosŏn Diplomacy with Ming China. New York: Columbia University Press.

For more than two hundred years after its establishment in 1392, the Chosŏn dynasty of Korea enjoyed generally peaceful and stable relations with neighboring Ming China, which dwarfed it in size, population, and power. This remarkably long period of sustained peace was not an inevitable consequence of Chinese cultural and political ascendancy. In this book, Sixiang Wang demonstrates how Chosŏn political actors strategically deployed cultural practices, values, and narratives to carve out a place for Korea within the Ming imperial order.

Boundless Winds of Empire is a cultural history of diplomacy that traces Chosŏn’s rhetorical and ritual engagement with China. Chosŏn drew on classical Chinese paradigms of statecraft, political legitimacy, and cultural achievement. It also paid regular tribute to the Ming court, where its envoys composed paeans to Ming imperial glory. Wang argues these acts were not straightforward affirmations of Ming domination; instead, they concealed a subtle and sophisticated strategy of diplomatic and cultural negotiation. He shows how Korea’s rulers and diplomats inserted Chosŏn into the Ming Empire’s legitimating strategies and established Korea as a stakeholder in a shared imperial tradition. Boundless Winds of Empire recasts a critical period of Sino-Korean relations through the Korean perspective, emphasizing Korean agency in the making of East Asian international relations.

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